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Why Chantix may reduce alcohol consumption.

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Some of those people who have posted comments on my blog have commented that when they were using Chantix (varenicline) their interest in drinking alcohol or smoking marijuana also decreased. There are a couple of obvious potential mechanisms for that effect. Firstly, we are all familiar with the association between smoking tobacco and other substance use. Smokers are much more likely to take other substances than non-smokers, and when a smoker has a drink it often increases their desire to smoke and vice versa. So Chantix may reduce other substance use simply by helping take out cigarettes as a trigger. In addition, there have been reports that in a small but significant proportion of cases, Chantix use has coincided with a period of low mood or depression. So it is plausible that those affected in this way may lose part of their taste or enthusiasm for a number of activities they had previously enjoyed (including alcohol).

But there is also some evidence from studies of experimental rats, which suggests that varenicline (Chantix) may have a more direct effect on alcohol consumption. Last year, Dr Pia Steenland and colleagues at University of California published a paper in the prestigious journal, “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences” Their study found that animals who became used to drinking ethanol (alcohol) and were then treated with varenicline showed reduced alcohol-seeking behavior, and reduced alcohol consumption, without having any effects on water or sugar consumption. The authors concluded that,
“The finding that varenicline decreased ethanol consumption in chronically exposed ethanol-consuming rats suggests that varenicline may serve as a therapeutic treatment to reduce alcohol consumption in alcoholic subjects; however, this remains to be examined.”

This means that these results in animals are suggestive of a potential effect in humans, but proper clinical trials in humans will be needed. So these reports of reduced interest in drinking alcohol among people taking Chantix for smoking cessation, may have a real pharmacological basis that may ultimately be clinically useful for people with alcohol problems.

The full study can be viewed at:
http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/articlerender.fcgi?tool=pubmed&pubmedid=17626178
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About the Author


MA, MAppSci, PhD

Dr. Jonathan Foulds is an expert in the field of tobacco addiction.

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